When it comes to coffee, there are a lot of different ways to enjoy it. You can drink it cold or hot, with milk or without, and in a variety of flavors.

But what is the difference between cold brew vs. hot brew?

The main difference is that cold brew takes significantly more time to make since the coffee is steeped in room temperature or cold water for an extended period of time (usually 12-24 hours), while hot brew takes only a few minutes.

Both have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, but which one is right for you?

In this article, I’ll break down all the differences so you can make the best decision for your needs. Let’s get into it!

Cold brew vs. hot brew, how do they differ?

Before getting into all the differences in-depth, have a look at the table below for a quick overview:

Comparison: Cold brew: Hot brew:
Flavor notes Smoother and sweeter taste Robust and full-bodied flavor
Acidity Low acidity Medium acidity
Water temperature Cold tap water 85-100 °C
Brewing time Between 12 and 24 hours About 5 minutes
Coffee roast used Medium to dark roast Any roast can be used
Grind size Coarse grind size Fine to medium grind size
Caffeine content 250mg of caffeine 170 to 220mg of caffeine
Number of calories About 5 calories About 5 calories
How is it served? Served on ice with sweeteners of choice Served as is with optional sweeteners

In this article, hot-brewed coffee means that it’s brewed with a French press, Chemex, or Hario V60.

If you want to learn more about espresso and how it compares to cold brew, you can check out this comparison article.

Cold brew vs. hot brew: the flavor difference

Cold brew coffee is known for its smooth, chocolatey flavor. This is because cold water extracts more complex flavors from the beans than hot water does.

Additionally, since no heat is used in the cold brewing process, there is less bitterness and acidity in the final product.

Added cold tap water to mason jar filled with ground coffee.
Making cold brew coffee

Hot brew coffee has a more intense flavor due to the higher temperatures used in the brewing process.

Another contributing factor is the type of bean used, which I’ll cover below:

What is the difference in coffee beans used?

The difference in coffee beans used is that cold brew uses dark-roasted beans while hot brew uses all kinds of coffee beans.

You can make hot-brewed coffee with various coffee beans, including light, medium, and dark roasts.

Geisha coffee beans next to different coffee beans for a side-by-side comparison.

Depending on the flavor you’re looking for, you can choose the coffee beans that fit your taste:

  • Light roast beans have a higher acidity, with fruity and floral flavors.
  • Medium roast beans are more balanced, with both high acidity and sweetness. They also have nutty and chocolate notes.
  • Dark roast beans are the least acidic, with smoky and earthy flavors.

On the other hand, cold brew almost always uses dark-roasted coffee beans. You could also use a medium roast, but the cold brew will have a more mellow flavor.

What is the difference in grind size?

The grind size for a particular brewing method affects extraction time and the amount of coffee exposed to water.

A coarse grind size is used for cold brew because it takes a long time for water to extract soluble flavor compounds from coffee when brewed at cooler temperatures. The grind size looks like this:

The grind size that is used to make cold brew coffee.

On the other hand, a fine to medium grind size is used for hot brew methods because the grounds are in contact with hot water for a shorter period of time, which extracts more soluble flavor compounds quickly.

The grind size for pour over coffee, such as coffee made with the Chemex looks like this:

The grind size that is used to brew geisha coffee with the Hario V60.

You can check out this article if you’d like to learn more about the grind sizes used for each brewing method.

Brewing time difference between cold brew and hot-brewed coffee

The brewing time difference between cold brew and hot-brewed coffee is that it takes longer to make a batch of cold brew coffee at home.

With cold brew, the coffee is brewed at room temperature with cold water and steeped for a longer period, typically 12-24 hours:

Adding a lid to the mason jar cold brew to let it steep.

This results in a smooth, low-acidity coffee that doesn’t need to be diluted with milk or sugar.

My favorite cold brew is made by steeping it for 15 hours. You can check out this in-depth article to learn more about making cold brew at home.

Hot-brewed coffee is made by boiling water and adding ground coffee to a French press. The grounds are steeped for about 3-5 minutes before being filtered out.

Chemex or Hario V60 coffee takes roughly 4 minutes, which makes it even faster.

Adding remaining water to geisha coffee.

This is one of the main reasons that hot coffee is so popular because it takes the least amount of time.

As you can see, the difference in grind size, along with the coffee beans used and the brewing time, make up the biggest differences between cold brew and a hot brew.

But there are more differences that make both coffees unique. Read on to learn about the caffeine content, number of calories, and more!

Caffeine content cold brew vs. hot brew

There is quite a difference in caffeine content between cold brew and hot-brewed coffee, and it all depends on the brewing technique used.

Pour over coffee will have the lowest amount of caffeine per serving, coming in at 170mg. At the same time, French press coffee has 220mg of caffeine.

Cold brew coffee has the most amount of caffeine and comes in at 250mg per serving. All servings in this comparison are for 1 cup, which equals 250 ml. (Source)

The caffeine content can change depending on the amount used for a serving and the coffee beans used.

For example, blonde roasted coffee beans are higher in caffeine than dark roasts.

Blonde roast and dark roast comparison.
Blonde roast on the left. Dark roast on the right

And if you want to increase the amount of caffeine (and flavor) of your regular brewed coffee, try making a red eye coffee by adding an espresso shot to the mix!

How many calories are in cold brew vs. hot brew?

The number of calories in coffee depends on how much milk and sugar you add to it.

Both coffees have virtually no calories, but once you start adding your favorite sweetener to the mix, this will increase:

As you can see, there can be a significant difference in the number of calories in the way you like to drink coffee compared to the next person.

Homemade vanilla syrup.
Homemade vanilla syrup

Just keep in mind that both coffees (when served as is) will have virtually no calories, making it a great way to start the day.

What is the difference in the way these coffees are served?

There is a notable difference in the way cold brew and hot-brewed coffee are served.

Cold brew coffee will always be served in a glass with ice added. As it’s a refreshing drink, about half of the glass will be filled with ice cubes.

Homemade chocolate cream cold brew, ready to drink.
Chocolate cream cold brew

Hot-brewed coffee, on the other hand, will be served as is. And just like cold brew, you don’t necessarily have to add anything to it.

Hot coffee is usually served in a big glass or cup, depending on the size you get.

Homemade red eye coffee.

Which is better, cold brew or hot brew?

It depends on personal preference. Some people prefer the taste of cold brew coffee, while others find it too diluted and prefer hot brew coffee.

A side-by-side comparison between cold brew and hot brewed coffee.
Cold brew on the left. Hot brew on the right

If you’re not quite sure which would suit you the best, I suggest the following:

  • Go with cold brew coffee if you’re looking for a refreshing, low-acid coffee that you can sweeten to taste.
  • If you like a more robust coffee flavor and would like to make your coffee within minutes, hot-brewed coffee is the way to go.

Both coffees are great options, and I love them equally as much. It’s also weather dependent for me.

I’ll drink more cold brew in the summer and love a hot cup of coffee in the winter and start of the day.

Related coffee comparison articles

Are you wondering how cold brew compares to other coffees?

Great! Check out the articles below for more in-depth coffee comparisons:

And to compare more coffees, visit the coffee comparison hub!

Conclusion

Now that you know the difference between cold brew and hot brew, which type of coffee are you going to make at home?

Cold brew is a great option if you want to save time in the morning. A hot brew might be better for you if you’re looking for something a little more traditional.

No matter what type of coffee you make at home, enjoy it and savor the flavor! And if you’d like to try out some amazing coffee recipes, have a look below.

Coffee recipes to try

Picture of Jeffrey, Author at Your Dream Coffee
Author

On my coffee blog you will find everything you need in order to start brewing coffee at home. Ranging from the basics; to the newest coffee recipes everybody talks about! You can learn more about me here.

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